Thursday, September 17, 2009

Beautifully, seasonally... with tomatoes, my great love

Indian summer doesn't really happen all that often in Estonia. I remember when I was studying in the States we got a whole month or more of Indian Summer in upstate NY. It was wonderful, colorful, gentle. Well we got about a week of it here this year. And a weather like that is just asking for dishes that serve as memoirs to the sunshine (and for lovely open air markets, which as you can see, we also went to).

Tomatoes are still at their best. Probably the last ones, so juicy, super sweet, fragrant. bursting with all the goodness of the summer that, alas, seems to have completely and unquestionably left us.
So I wanted to make something that'd celebrate the glory of tomatoes without banishing them to their classical tang-adding, color-enhancing supporting-actor role.

I started with roasting them with some brown sugar and balsamic vinegar and then those gloriously taste-filled tomatoes ended up as the star of two different dishes - a simple as hell pasta dish and a dinner sandwich.

Roasted tomatoes with pasta (röstitud tomatipasta):
serves 4

for the roasted tomatoes:
4-10 (depending on the size) ripe tomatoes, different sizes, colors and shapes are fine, best if you can pick your own from the greenhouse and if you do, don't be afraid of the ones that have already fallen off the branches. They're the sweetest ones and you can just cut out the occasional ugly spot).
1 medium red onion
4 cloves of garlic
1-2 tbsp of brown sugar
2 tsp of sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
a sprinkle of good Balsamic vinegar or Worchestershire sauce (depends on which flavor you prefer).
a good glug of olive oil
1 large bell-pepper (green or red)
a large bunch of fresh basil (small leaved variety is better here)

for the pasta:
your favorite pasta shapes to feed 4 (1/2 pack)
2 tbsp of creamed cheese
parmesan shavings to serve

Preheat the oven to 200C and use the top-grill + fan function.
Deseed the pepper and cut it in sectors.
Separate the garlic into cloves, keep the skins but get rid of any dirt.
Line an oven tin with baking paper and place the bell peppers (skin-side up) and the garlic cloves on it. Sprinkle with some olive oil and place in the pre-heated oven until the skins on the peppers turn black (about 10 min).
While the peppers and the garlic are roasting, clean the tomatoes and cut them into nice chunks (for example 1/2 for small tomatoes, 1/4 for larger ones and 1/8 for huge ones).

Slice or garter the onion and separate into layers.
Pull the leaves off the basil, but keep the stalks and break them into shorter sprigs.

When the bell-peppers are blackish on top, take them out and transfer them into a plastic bag.

Check if the garlic is soft, if not, leave them on the baking tray (remember to check on them otherwise they'll burn and dry out).
Transfer the tomatoes to the baking paper, sprinkle with salt, pepper, sugar, Balsamico or Worchestershire (or both), olive oil, onion slices and basil stalks.
Grill in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, until nice and soft.

While the tomatoes are in the oven boil the pasta according to instructions (7 min).
Take the bell-peppers from the plastic bag and peel the skins off (should be relatively easy thanks to the plastic-bag sweating).
Cut the peppers into smaller pieces.
When the pasta is done, drain it, toss it with the creamed cheese and stir in the bell peppers. They'll be tender and have a nice smoky taste to them.
Divide the pasta between bowls, put a very generous ladleful of roasted tomatoes-onions (remove the basil sprigs first) on top of the pasta. Sprinkle with fresh basil leaves and Parmesan. Top off with the roasted garlic.

Roasted tomato and ham roll (Kukkel röstitud tomatite ja singiga):
serves 4:

For roasted tomatoes see the above ingredients and instructions.

For the rolls:
4 ciabatta buns or dinner rolls
olive oil
4 slices of your favorite ham
Grana Padano shavings or 8 pieces of nice fatty Brie

Cut the rolls in half, sprinkle with olive oil and grill in the oven for 1-2 minutes, until golden.
Slice the ham and if you want to (or it's been in your fridge a while), quickly fry it in a pan.

Top one half of the roll with a generous spoonful of roasted tomatoes. Sprinkle with grillde bell-peppers and ham-strip. Top with fresh basil, cheese, the roasted garlic and the second half of the roll.

Enjoy the remnants of summer in every mouthful.


Sophie said...

What a lovely tomatoes recipe this is!!

i love tomatoes in every form or in any dish!


lisaiscooking said...

We, on the other hand, have a summer that doesn't stop! It's still so warm here. Unfortunately, our local tomatoes are best early in the season. Your pasta looks delicious though!